I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

New York Times Review of Alec Baldwin's Book

Divorce American Style

Published: October 3, 2008

Alec Baldwin is responsible for two of the greatest short bits of comedy ever to appear on television. The first is the 1998 “Saturday Night Live”skit in which he is Pete Schweddy, the owner of the holiday bakery Season’s Eatings. Schweddy appears on a National Public Radio talk show to discuss his Christmas goodies — zucchini bread, fruitcake and, of course, his bakery’s most famous holiday treat, typically rum-based. “No one can resist” this delectable Schweddy treat, Baldwin intones with the sobriety of an undertaker. It’s sophomoric in print, and brilliant on the screen.

Mark Blinch/Reuters

Alec Baldwin

A PROMISE TO OURSELVES

A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce

By Alec Baldwin with Mark Tabb

224 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $24.95

The second is a scene from the second season of the NBCcomedy “30 Rock”: Baldwin is Jack Donaghy, a self-important television executive who guides Tracy Morgan’s character through a therapeutic role-playing session to the protests of a do-good shrink. In two minutes, Baldwin resolves Morgan’s family estrangement by assuming the roles of Morgan’s father, a black man from “funky North Philly” with a droopy lip; Morgan’s mother; Morgan’s mother’s white boyfriend; Morgan himself; and the neighbor Mrs. Rodriguez. It is a manic monologue, satiric and sharp. Go to YouTube and watch it now.

As brilliant an actor as Baldwin can be, his comic acuity may be so keen partly because we associate him in real life with a darker, more dolorous personality. His new book, “A Promise to Ourselves,” is a treatise on how the family law system in America is broken, and why it should be changed. It is a serious book, masquerading as a manifesto but eventually turning into a desperately sad memoir, layered beneath the polemic, about the failure of Baldwin’s marriage and his estrangement from his only child. It’s the curse of the comic not to be taken seriously when he or she wants to be serious: Just because Robin Williams went into rehab, would we want to read a book about 12-stepping by him? When Billy Crystal fulfilled a lifelong dream by going to bat as the Yankees’ designated hitter in spring training earlier this year, standing at the plate with his white man’s overbite, weren’t you kind of hideously, painfully embarrassed for the guy when he struck out?

Baldwin barrels forward, arguing that American family law is a system of lawyers and judges working in cooperation to drain the wallets of divorcing couples — an industry that preys on the vulnerabilities of the already vulnerable. “To be pulled into the American family law system in most states is like being tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road late at night,” he writes. “No one can hear your cries and complaints, and it is not over until they say it is over.” Baldwin draws on his contentious divorce from the actress Kim Basinger, and he wants you to believe that the book contains no gossip about that tabloid feast. And yet “A Promise to Ourselves,” written with Mark Tabb, includes details that will surely make their way onto the Internet and supermarket racks: when Basinger told Baldwin she was pregnant with their daughter, it was with such grimness that rather than a seeming cause of joy, it was “like someone telling you that they had wrecked your car”; Baldwin describes Basinger as having “the legal equivalent of Munchausen syndrome,” appearing most alive “when she was surrounded by a battery of high-priced lawyers”; he suggests she did everything in her power to distort his relationship with his daughter. And woe to many of the lawyers, judges, anger- management therapists and shrinks mentioned in the book. They are variously “oily and smug,” “pent-up, angry and even malicious,” “cadaverous,” “the Wicked Witch of the West Coast.” One of Basinger’s attorneys is an “avaricious, inhumane garden slug.” And that’s the nice part. Most lawyers strike him as “men and women who were not sufficiently smart enough to become doctors or engineers.” Ouch. Let’s hope this guy doesn’t get divorced again.

Despite the fact that scores of millions of Americans are divorced, divorce is a lonely business. Each divorce is horrible in its own specifically horrible way. Because of this, no two people can cry on each other’s shoulders with the precise amount of empathy and understanding. In an attempt to forge some sense of community, Baldwin sprinkles the book with narratives from men who experienced divorces like his — including those in which the children suffer from parental alienation syndrome. P.A.S. is a malady in which one parent — in Baldwin’s book, almost invariably the father — is isolated from the child or children in a divorce. In short, it’s the women folk who make the kids hate Dad. Dad then spirals out of control and leaves an obscene, emotionally violent message for his prepubescent daughter on her cellphone (as Baldwin notoriously did in 2007, calling her, among other things, a “rude, thoughtless little pig”). The message is leaked to the press, which really makes you wonder which parent should be tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down a gravel road at night, but nevertheless the father is left with egg on his face, and his daughter with one person fewer on her speed dial.

Baldwin wants us to believe that P.A.S. is a legitimate syndrome, yet he goes to curious lengths to show us that it may not be a sound diagnosis. He then wraps up by interviewing a Harvard law professor, a “rising star” and a woman who argues that feminism is in part to blame for the broken family law system. The transcript format he uses here is ponderous, self-serious and rigid. You can almost hear him as Jack Donaghy interviewing the hot little number from Harvard.

For all its faults, its creakinesses and almost codger-like crankiness, its occasionally sludgy prose, this book has a point. Divorce is hell. Lawyers are vultures. Children get lost. Baldwin bravely set out to illuminate and change the way divorce is conducted in this country; he also, wittingly or not, offers a candid, unhappy portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Alex Kuczynski is the author of “Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery.”

1 comment:

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